Founded by German immigrants that were attracted by the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers, New Braunfels still draws many travelers for the two-mile-long Comal (the world’s shortest river) and the Guadalupe River. Its crystal-clear waters begin with the springs in downtown Landa Park, eventually merging with the Guadalupe River, home to many local outfitters. Located on the scenic drive called River Road, the outfitters provide equipment and transportation for inner-tubers—and their dogs—to enjoy a float down the cypress-shaded waters.
Canyon Lake. Think of Canyon Lake and you might just think of summer fun on the lake…but the good times at this lake and surrounding community take place all year. The community nicknamed “the water recreation capital of Texas” offers you and your dog everything from bird watching to lakeside strolls. Canyon Lake is located about half an hour northwest of New Braunfels.
Comal River Tubing. Take a float down the Comal River with your dog. Chuck’s Tubes rents inner tubes to four-legged visitors, too. There’s a $25 charge if your dog punctures his tube or loses it and there’s no refund if your dog decided he’d hates tubing and would rather just dog paddle. Also, a Comal County ordinance requires all dogs to be on a leash; there’s a $500 fine for letting your dog run loose. Info: 493 N Market St.; chuckstubes.com. Fee.
Guadalupe River Tubing. Go tubing with your dog on the Guadalupe River! River Sports Tubes permits dogs in the tubes as well as on the shuttles buses. If you’d like your dog to wear a life jacket, you’ll need to bring it yourself (although they have human jackets for rent). Your dog will need to be leashed so please consider the safety issues with your dog before booking. Some tubes include bottoms for dogs. Info: 12034 FM 306; 830-964-2450; www.riversportstubes.com. Fee.
Landa Park. This day-use park named for New Braunfels’s first millionaire is a family favorite thanks to its miniature train, glass-bottom boat cruise, a golf course, and a one-and-a-half-acre spring-fed swimming pool. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted in any waterway in the park; they may walk in the park on leash and accompany you for a picnic, however. Info: Landa and San Antonio Sts.; www.nbtexas.org. Free.
Natural Bridge Caverns. The largest cave in central and south Texas has wide, illuminated trails, perfect for introducing young visitors to the beauties of this underground world. Tours depart at least every 30 minutes and last about 75 minutes, taking visitors through enormous rooms that look like the playing fields of prehistoric dinosaurs. And for the more active members of your party, there’s the Hidden Passages Adventure Tour, an adventure tour for which guests are outfitted in spelunking gear. This moderate to hard tour includes rappelling and crawling through passageways to view rarely seen cave features such as a 14-foot “soda straw,” one of the largest such formations in North America. You’ll need to make special reservations for this tour. The littlest travelers can also enjoy the cave’s Natural Bridge Mining Company, home of what they called Texas’s largest sluice. Water running through troughs gives kids the chance to pan for gems, minerals, and even fossils, all to keep and take home. During the holidays, the caverns host one of the most unique holiday events in the Hill Country: Christmas in the Caverns. You’ll need to make reservations early for this always popular event and the chance to hear the season’s long-time favorite songs reverberating off cavern walls. 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd.
Natural Bridge Wildlife Park. Located next to Natural Bridge Caverns, this is the longest-running safari park in the state. The drive through the ranch takes you past zebras, gazelles, antelopes, and ostriches, and feeding is allowed. You’ll receive a bucket of animal food when you arrive, and the animals come right up to the car to greet their guests. Family-operated, this 400-acre park is home to over 40 species from around the world. On the 4 1/2-mile drive, you’ll be able to see everything from addax antelope to zebra. You’ll also have the opportunity to view some of the endangered species which call this ranch home including the white rhino, reticulated giraffe, ringtailed lemur, and others. The entrance area includes a petting zoo. 26515 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd.
Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort New Braunfels. New Braunfel’s original Schlitterbahn (“slippery road”) is one of the state’s most popular warm weather attractions and was named the country’s best water park by the Travel Channel. The nearby spring-fed Comal River is the source of the park’s 72-degree water supply.The symbol of Schlitterbahn is a 60-foot tall castle, a replica of the guard tower of Solms Castle in Braunfels, Germany. The park’s many sections carry on the theme, with names like Blastenhoff, Tubenbach, and Surfenburg, home of the world’s first uphill water coaster, the Master Blaster. There are also quieter areas for relaxing including a huge hot tub with a bar. 400 N. Liberty Ave.